Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part III. ESCAPE
While we waited for Adam to finish setting up a date on the phone, Spencer turned to me. “If you want female companionship this weekend, I can bring some up for you.” He smiled cryptically, as if he were testing me. “I know these two breathtaking Russian girls who will really take care of you.”
“Sounds kind of shady,” I replied. A young Hispanic cleaning lady with Mrs. Kaufman-sized breasts mopped the floor begrudgingly in the living room. Her jaw was clenched, and her eyes shone with resentment at her humiliating task and those who paid her so little for it.
“They’re not prostitutes or anything. They’re just looking for wealthy guys to marry. That’s pretty much their entire purpose in life. If I tell them you’re rich and let you use my black card, you can have whichever one you want.”
“But if they want to get married, why would they sleep with me on the first date?”
“Because it’s going to be the best sex you’ve ever had. They know what they’re doing. Just watch your condoms. They’ll poke holes in them to get pregnant.”
“That’s one of the most devious things I’ve ever heard.” No wonder Spencer was so paranoid.
Adam was still on the phone, complaining about his parents. It seemed strange to hear a man well into his thirties still calling them “Mommy” and “Daddy.” On the end table next to him, I noticed a book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy, and made a mental note to buy it.
“You don’t even know the half of it,” Spencer continued. “When I sold my company, I had to get my number changed. These kinds of girls check the newspapers for financial transactions, then wait outside the apartment of someone who’s just made a lot of money hoping to meet them.”
“Do they ever succeed?”
“The guys in this house would never marry one of those girls. What they’re looking for is a very specific genetic stock. The girl needs to be beautiful, intelligent, and from a respectable family, with no history of hereditary illnesses.”
“So they pretty much approach marriages like they approach their businesses?”
“That’s why they’re successful.”
Rather than freezing themselves like Craig, these billionaires strove to extend their lives by creating new, improved versions of themselves. They didn’t believe in children; they believed in a legacy. We were all, in our own way, running from death.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning psychiatrist Ernest Becker explained it in his book The Denial of Death, because we fear our own obliteration, we give our life purpose by embarking on an “immortality project” that will outlast us—whether it be our work, our children, the way we affect others, a good seat in the afterlife, or, in Craig’s case, hope.
Adam hung up, then promptly called his parents. While we waited, Spencer suggested devising a plan to select my second citizenship. He loved plans—which was fine with me, because I’d always been bad at them. It was hard enough for me just to leave the house without forgetting my keys or wallet.
As if on cue, the maid started vacuuming loudly in front of us while Spencer took a pad of paper, set it down on the coffee table, and numbered it from one to five. By sorting through both practical necessities and personal preferences, we eventually selected five criteria required of the host country:
1. Must have a credible passport providing a wide network of visa-free travel.
2. Must be politically and regionally stable, with a low crime rate.
3. Must not significantly increase the tax liability of Americans living there.
4. Must not require more than two years of residency for citizenship.
5. Preferably in a warm climate with beaches.
Admittedly, the last criterion was more personal than political.
Adam soon joined us. He reminded me of a thinner, better-groomed version of Ignatius J. Reilly, the overweight mama’s boy with an unwarranted superiority complex in the novel A Confederacy of Dunces.
As he sat down, he glanced up in irritation at the maid. She met his gaze coldly and continued vacuuming the same spot. She was obedient when under observation but seemed like she’d drop poison in his coffee the moment he turned his back on her.
“Neil wants to know how you got your passport,” Spencer prompted him.
“My passport?” Adam asked. “Anyone can get one”—a smug smile spread across his face, like that of the only kid in the playground with a chocolate bar—“if they invest over a million dollars in the country.”
“It’s the only place in the European Union that will give you citizenship for making an economic investment. I started a venture capital business there and hired a bunch of Austrians. It took forever to get approved. I had to go to the highest level of government.”
I didn’t have that kind of money to invest, let alone those kinds of connections. It looked like the European Union was for the B boys. “How long did it take to get it?”
“I started trying as soon as Bush was reelected.”
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so foolish. If the smartest, richest guys in the country were doing this, then clearly I wasn’t paranoid. I was just ahead of the curve. St. Slim Jim, prophet of passports.
“A bunch of other B people are doing similar things right now,” Spencer told me. “Do you know the Walton family? They own Wal-Mart. They just built an underground bunker near their home in Arkansas. They even have a helipad in case they need to evacuate.”
“That’s crazy.” It was amazing how little difference there was between the billionaires and the cult leaders.
“Actually, it isn’t. If something does happen in America, it may be difficult to get out,” Spencer replied slowly, as if confiding a secret he hadn’t meant to tell me. “So we’re taking flight lessons in a few months.”
Spencer didn’t start any business without researching every minute detail, then drawing up a schedule that looked forward at least ten years, included all expenses, and had contingency options for every possible obstacle, including death. His escape-from-America plan was no different.
“I’m not taking any chances with my family,” he continued. “I just bought them guns, in case we have to shoot our way to the airport.”
Coming from the mouth of a respected businessman—especially after watching the Fliesian looting in New Orleans—these extreme preparations were actually beginning to sound reasonable. Except for the guns. I couldn’t imagine killing anyone. Unfortunately, as Bettie the goat knows, that lofty ideal of mine would fall by the wayside as the country continued its downhill slide.
Instead of inviting the Russian gold diggers over, Adam and I spent the rest of the night drinking wine and debating his escape route with his housemates.
“I’m executing a ten-year plan to make sure everything that could go wrong is protected against,” Spencer said, his face glowing with the pride of feeling one step ahead of everyone else. “It’s about creating revenue sources and residences in multiple locations, so that if you have to flee one country, your daily existence won’t change.”
“Do you know the problem with your plans?” challenged the mortgage company vice president, Howard, a pasty, heavyset man with an incongruent passion for mountain biking. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, so there’s no way to prepare. If there’s never a disaster, then you’re just wasting your time like all those people who built bomb shelters in the sixties. And if there is a disaster and someone drops a nuke, it’ll probably be in New York and you’ll get vaporized. So why not just relax and enjoy life, instead of worrying about everything that can go wrong?”
“Because this makes economic sense,” Spencer replied coolly. “Do you have insurance for fires, theft, and illness?”
“Of course,” Howard replied.
“Which means you agree that a certain portion of your income should be allocated to protect you against catastrophes, even if they’re low-probability events.” Spencer took a small, prudent sip of wine, then continued. “Because that’s all this is: an insurance policy. When you think something will never happen to you, that’s usually when it happens.”